Tea Leaf Green
It ain't easy being a gypsy, especially if one sings for their supper. San Francisco's Tea Leaf Green are newfangled Lost Boys, a traveling gang dedicated to seeking wisdom and experience in places both glorious and seedy. In many ways, this quintet is the essence of rock's adventurous, playfully outlaw spirit, all of which ultimately fuels songs that resonate with classic vibrations, open-ended... possibilities and radio-ready charm. TLG are bruised romantics with heavy minds and a lighthearted way with experimentation, as likely to jam out a number as they are to nail a primo verse-verse-chorus pop gem.
All the steadily growing promise, evident since they began in the late 1990s, comes to fruition on their seventh studio album, Radio Tragedy, arriving June 7, 2011. With the aid of producer Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine), the band has crafted a powerhouse work with the oomph of their stellar live performances melded to a truly impressive array of vocal nuance, rib-sticking song craft and smart studio flourishes. From the Bee Gees-esque bite of "Easy To Be Your Lover" to the bouncing modern rock of "You're My Star," Radio Tragedy showcases a contemporary American rock monster fully emerging from the shadows, ready to take on any comers with a sound that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with skilled contemporaries like My Morning Jacket and The Strokes. Together, Trevor Garrod (keys, vocals), Josh Clark (guitar, vocals), Scott Rager (drums), Reed Mathis (bass, vocals) and newest member Cochrane McMillan (drums) have made a record that's both timely and timeless - a strange, beautiful space that Tea Leaf Green inhabits naturally and gracefully.
"Much of this record is a reflection on the ups and downs on the road to radio gold, chasing dreams and ghosts on America's highways and finding triumph, sorrow and sacrifice in the pursuit," says Josh Clark. "Tea Leaf Green has been a band for over a decade. We've tried to simply focus on music, just music, honest music, operating in the shadow of braggart auto-tuned rappers and inane teeny bop prop puppets that has come to rule and choke the life out of what was once America's greatest export - rock and roll."
"I don't think any of us have ever felt completely satisfied with our past studio experiences, so we went into this one with the deliberate intent of making a complete album. Each of us brought our own vision and we did our best to fuse those ideas in the studio, all of us committed to seeing each member's vision take shape," says Scott Rager. "TLG has been a band for 13 years and I think we've made the record we always thought we were capable of making."
"I wanted a story - something loud, something bright, something to scare your kids goodnight. There is adventure to be had. There is an undiscovered country," says Trevor Garrod. "We have been there for each other through thick (rarely) and thin (mostly). There are five of us now and like a pack of pickpockets, we will steal your heart."
"At the center, our commitment to this music and our passion for making it and performing it has remained rock steady," continues Josh Clark. "Like countless bands creating phenomenal music today, we work on the edges of the mainstream where we can be heard, looking in on the tragedy that radio seems to have forgotten where to find the gold. This album is a true story of our lives in pursuit of a dream from another time and how we survive despite it all."
Since 2007 American Babies has been the mouthpiece for Philadelphia based musician Tom Hamilton. After spending the early 2000s building a national fan base fronting the electro-rock band Brothers Past, releasing two critically acclaimed albums and averaging 150 shows a year, a change was in order. Hamilton looked to shed the electronic “bleeps-n-boops” production that had become his calling card and make an album that was loose, rolling and full of vibe.
“Being in a band can get to be very political, where everyone needs to be happy. That doesn’t always lead to artistic fulfillment,” Hamilton says. “I had a vision I wanted to follow but felt that going solo as a singer/songwriter wasn’t a very comfortable fit for me. Then it dawned on me to just start another band where I’m the only real constant member. Problem solved.”
So Hamilton moved to Brooklyn and enlisted friends Joe Russo (Benevento/Russo Duo, Grateful Dead offshoot Furthur), Kevin Kendrick (Fat Mama), and brother Jim Hamilton to hit the studio with producer Jon Altschiller (Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Rachael Yamagata) and a dozen songs that spawned American Babies self-titled release (2008 Sci Fidelity).
“That first album was exactly what I wanted it to be. A few guys whom are great friends sitting around playing tunes that they all liked and having a good time together. We let the tape roll and just hung out laughing, drinking, and making fun of each other. Somewhere in there we managed to play some great stuff.”
Hamilton hit the road with American Babies either playing solo shows or with a rotating cast of players that included Russo, brother Jim Hamilton, Scott Metzger (Gene Ween Band), Dave Driewitz (WEEN), and Ryan Thornton (Sean Bones) landing showcases on Festivals like Bonnaroo and CMJ (2007), Langerado, SxSW and Newport Folk (2008) as well as supporting slots for the Derek Trucks Band, Sheryl Crow, The National, and the Wood Brothers.
So far, so good.
2009 found Hamilton bringing it all back home as he moved back to Philadelphia and partnered with producer Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man, Hoots and Hellmouth) to record American Babies’ second LP “Flawed Logic”. Using mostly Philadelphia based resources, writing and recording consumed the entire year.
“It was important for the Babies to evolve from the first album, to broaden the scope topically and sonically. With all that was happening in the world in late 2008 and 2009 it felt impossible not to have the events of the times dictate the story and direction of the album. That in of itself was an enormous creative shift and it made my job a lot easier.”
These sessions yielded the “Weight of the World EP” (2010) and the band’s second full length LP, “Flawed Logic” (2011). Releases that speak of change, war, Wall Street, family, and the struggle to wade through it all; be it alone or with a partner; short stories of different individuals and couples trying to navigate through modern day life hoping to at least break even. Mr. Hamilton says of the album:
“It’s about pressure. Pressure is always a part of life but in recent times it feels a bit heavier. Husband, wife, son, daughter, boss, soldier, what ever…We’re feeling the pinch and trying to figure out how to cope. At least that’s the way I’m calling it.”
Response to the album has been overwhelmingly positive as Atlas and Anchor states, “American Babies’ Flawed Logic may the best Americana, Alt-Country or ‘whatever you want to call it’ album of the year”,and State of Mind Magazine agrees saying, “hopefully 2011 will produce more records like Flawed Logic — definitely one of the best to come out this year.”
Since the release of “Flawed Logic”, Hamilton has found a more permanent, likeminded line up to fill out the band with Brooklyn-based drummer Dave Butler (Lee Scratch Perry, Dub is a Weapon) and fellow Philly folks Adam Flicker (The Brakes) on keys and Mark Karwan on Bass. The band has been turning heads all year and will be living on the road for the forseable future.